How Digital Tech Helps Business Drive Agility

By Don Schulman and Kris Timmermans

The disruption of industries is nothing new. There are countless examples, from Henry Ford to Uber, where businesses have faced a rapidly changing, disintermediated environment that requires constant innovation and reimagined thinking. So business leaders must consistently look for new ways to keep up with competitors and stay relevant.

Leveraging technology has been considered the panacea that will transform businesses into digital enterprises and help them keep pace with rapidly changing times. This concept typically involves technology to reduce costs, which allows businesses to reinvest the savings in solutions that can achieve growth.

Technology can enable businesses to be predictive and far more precise when it comes to planning. It also allows them to be faster, smarter, more agile and more strategic. Digital investments are a true value proposition that can lower costs and drive growth.

According to a study from Accenture, 82 percent of surveyed business leaders feel that technology has a huge impact on reducing costs and driving growth. Although this statistic may not seem very surprising, it doesn’t tell the whole story.

What happens all too often is that business leaders aren’t equipped to manage the digital transformation. In the past, to implement the right digital solutions, the CIO was firmly in the driver’s seat. Today, it’s too hard for one single person to measure that disruption and respond accordingly.

Therefore, the decision must be spread among other C-level executives—the chief human resources officer, chief financial officer, chief marketing officer, chief information security officer, chief technology officer and the CEO—where the accountability ultimately still lies. Collectively, they must decide which technologies and the timing are needed to achieve this transformation.

Many of these C-suite executives don’t have technology backgrounds, and they may make shortsighted mistakes when it comes to investing in digital technologies. They’re bombarded from all sides with new and flashy solutions that promise quick ROI but end up acting merely as band-aids on organizational problems.

To overcome this challenge, organizational leaders should consider assigning every executive a digital partner. This individual, who would act as the right hand of the business function lead, would understand technology and be responsible at all times for considering how the implementation of technology would drive the digital journey.

This approach enables executives to leverage their years of management and sales expertise and bring them into the digital age. The teaming of these two skill sets—business and tech—creates a climate for success and gives leaders an opportunity to take a long-term view of digital transformation.

Implementing Short- and Long-Term Digital Solutions

Leaders often need to achieve short-term cost savings to make investments in digital solutions, but it’s important not to get distracted by solutions that will make the long-term transformation more difficult. Instead, they should implement digital solutions that can provide short-term successes and costs savings, but are still steppingstones on a long-term path.

Short-term digital solutions don’t have to be complex. Technologies such as telepresence, collaboration, sensors in light fixtures and HVAC—all of which can reduce operating expenses—can go a long way toward bringing down costs.

In an ideal world, the prudent approach would be for these executive leader partners to take a long-term view when it comes to implementing digital technologies, even if that approach might cost more in the short term. In fact, in the same Accenture study, 43 percent of respondents cited cost as being one of the biggest barriers to achieving an enterprise digital transformation.

The rapidly changing environment doesn’t have to be a daunting challenge for businesses. Digital transformation can be achieved by examining the right solutions and skill sets and making sure they’re aligned during the journey. It’s possible for both large and small organizations to achieve this.

Leaders already have everything at their fingertips to manage the transformation journey successfully and smartly—if they’re willing to take a long-term view and reimagine their worlds.

Don Schulman is the senior managing director, functional excellence and integration consulting, at Accenture. Kris Timmermans is Accenture’s senior managing director, strategy/operations strategy.